These are the most widely prescribed medicines to treat ADHD and often are the first course of treatment your physician may prescribe. Well-known stimulants include Ritalin and Adderall.
Stimulants increase norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain in order to improve concentration and even lessen fatigue.
Well known stimulants used in the treatment of ADHD include:
These drugs can be habit-forming/addicting, so great caution is advised if prescribed to children with ADHD.
Common side effects can include upset stomach, headache and higher blood pressure, but these should dissipate after a few weeks.
Additional side effects can include:
- Weight loss/loss of appetite
Mild Stimulants (Methylphenidate)
Several ADHD drugs are milder stimulants that use methylphendiate to block the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine into the brain’s neurons. These mild stimulants are sold under brand names such as:
- Methylin (a liquid and chewable form of methylphenidate
- Quillivant (an extended release liquid methylphenidate)
These medications can have side effects similar to that of the stimulants (mentioned above) and also could become habit-forming/addicting.
These medications affect neurotransmitters, but they don’t increase dopamine levels. Results can take longer to appear, however, and often are prescribed to ADHD patients when a stimulant medication has proved ineffective or unsafe. People who want to avoid stimulants’ side effects also may be prescribed a non-stimulant.
A non-stimulant medication tends to not cause lack of appetite, sleeplessness or agitation as stimulants may, and they don’t have the same risk of abuse or addiction. In addition, their effects tend to last longer than those of a stimulant medication
Brand-name non-stimulant ADHD medications include:
- Strattera (generic name: atomoxetine). This non-stimulate can be taken just once a day, as it’s long-acting. It works by prolonging the action of norepinephrine in the brain. Another of its benefits is that it doesn’t need to be tapered when discontinued.
- Kapvay (generic name: clonidine). This drug often is used for high blood pressure as well as ADHD. It’s used to reduce distractibility, impulsiveness and hyperactivity. It does lower blood pressure, so patients taking it may experience lightheadedness.
- Intuniv (generic name: guanfacine). Also often prescribed to adults with high blood pressure, it can help with behavior and memory, as well as lowering hyperactivity and aggression. Please note that only the brand name Intuniv should be used for ADHD in children.
Some physicians may prescribe antidepressants to patients with more complex diagnoses of ADHD, but they are not approved by the FDA as an ADHD medication and would be prescribed in addition to an ADHD medication.
You and your child’s physician (or your own physician, if you have been diagnosed with ADHD), will meet together to decide on a treatment plan that’s right for your child. Don’t be surprised if you child may try different prescribed medications over the first few weeks or months, as it can take some time until the right prescription and dosage is found that works best for your child’s particular ADHD symptoms.